High School Reading of Honors: Mr. Joseph Chan’s (’09 ) Message to the Awardees

Mr. Joseph or “Joe” Chan of batch 2009 giving his speech to the awardees and the Xavier community (photo provided by the HSPO)

The following message was delivered by guest speaker, Mr. Joseph Chan (’09), during the High School Reading of Honors last 03 July 2015.

Principal Apolinario, (Fr. Dy, board of trustees) faculty and staff, proud parents and my fellow Xaverians— or as Ms. Valencia would say, Zaverians: good morning to you all.

When Ms. Apolinario invited me to speak here today, I circled around my room for a few minutes questioning whether there was any particular message that I really wanted to share… Not to mention, the idea of speaking in front of the entire high school frightened me just a little bit. But, I committed myself to the objective, sat myself down and got to work (cough) last night. Just like a true Xaverian.

The annual reading of honors is a day for us Xaverians to reflect on the past year and give due recognition to the academic achievements of our peers. But before we acknowledge such achievements let’s give it up for the big man upstairs, Fr. Dy, and the biggest man upstairs, the source, the universe, the supreme being… Also goes by GOD. Next it’s only fair that we take time to honor the parents who’ve granted us the privilege of attaining such achievements in the first place. Completing a high school education is an opportunity more than 25% of the population your age doesn’t get to have. So guys, honor student or not, when you get home today, go to your parents, give them a big hug and let them know: (drama) “Mom, dad, thank you for your love and the gift of an education… (emotional tears) I love you.” (clear throat)

Of course it isn’t just our parents who’ve brought us to where we are today. Today we also honor the people without whom there wouldn’t be a Xavier School. The people whose belief in the importance of quality education have cultivated in us the values of character, (think) competence, (think) conscience, what else.. culture, (just remember) ahhh compassion and community… the 6Cs! You guys should use that. 6Cs. (cool guy confident) Catchy. The faculty and staff of this institution are top of the line, and in the last 6 years after graduating, I’ve seen them transform Xavier to a whole other level. In fact I heard you guys now have XCE trips to Yunan, Fujian, Beijing and Guangzhou. Right? You mean to tell me you’ll now be learning how to order McDonald’s in Mandarin, Fukien AND Cantonese? Just not fair man.

Now that we’ve honored the people who’ve made such a tremendous impact in our lives, it’s time for the main event. To the awardees sitting before me today, you can remain seated— I know who you are by your slightly longer hair. Congratulations to you guys. You’ve made both your teachers and parents proud. May your thirst for learning inspire others, and may your accomplishments fuel your continued perseverance in all your pursuits. Remember that the purpose of your different school subjects isn’t necessarily that you become a scientist, historian, or a writer of Old English plays. The point is for you to get used to being thrown in front of problems you don’t know how to solve (laugh acceptingly) but have to figure out anyway. (sarcastic) Doesn’t that sound like so much fun guys?

Quality education shapes the way we approach difficult problems that we’re thrown in front of time and time again. For those of you who’ve raised your hands in math class and asked: “(cocky) Cher, question.. uhm, when are we going to use the quadratic formula in real life?” For those guys, try viewing the problems you face in the classroom as… jigsaw puzzles. They’re there to develop the analytical and character skills you will need when you go up against the even more perplexing puzzles of modern society. The puzzles and contradictions you’ll confront outside the classroom may not even provide the correct picture to guide you. Take for example GDP, which we adopt as the primary indicator used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. But imagine this: what if, hypotethically, when we wake up tomorrow, everyone is instantaneously perfectly healthy. I mean no sickness. No need for medicine.. aaaaand everyone has six pack abs! The medical industry would collapse, causing GDP to plummet. Now textbook economics leaves us scratching our heads at this paradox, where a healthy community suddenly corresponds to an unhealthy economy. GDP also fails to capture the distribution… or often the concentration of wealth. It favors buying vegetables in the grocery over growing them in your own backyard. Maximizing our education therefore requires that we take what we’ve learned from textbooks but apply it within the context of a truly healthy, and sustainable society. Without this picture to guide our actions, we may end up solving the wrong puzzles and then I’ll never get that 6 pack!

But solving a puzzle alone isn’t as fun as solving it with other people, unless we’re talking about 2048 in which case don’t tell me… (emabarrassed tampo) I had two of those, 1024 tiles right there! But seriously, could we please get off our digital screens for one second, and simply connect with the human being right next to us? The best way to predict the future, they say, is to create it, but we can’t create it alone. Education strengthens us so that we can strengthen others. It’s the only way we’ll be able to gather the critical mass necessary to steer this nation towards the future it deserves. Have you heard of Jack Ma? He founded Alibaba.com in 1999, envisioning a trading platform that would connect exporters and importers from around the world. In a speech he gave last week, Ma describes a paradigm shift as businesses of this era look not only toward making themselves more powerful, but making others more powerful as well. His mission was to empower small and medium sized enterprises, and on China’s Singles Day in 2014, Alibaba posted $9.2 billion dollars of sales in 24 hours… I think I’ll take this guy’s business advice. What about you, what are your strengths, and how can you leverage your strengths to strengthen others?

On the subject of education, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite phrases by Mark Twain. It goes, (British accent) “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Hmmm… I don’t think Mark Twain was British but anyway… I guess if you asked me I’d prefer to put it this way: I have never let my schooling be my only source of learning. You are more than Xaverians, you are students in the school of life, where you were enrolled 9 months before your day of birth and on the first day of classes you were naked, and crying, and just, gross. In the school of life, every person you meet is a teacher; every experience, a lesson; every challenge, a test. You’ll succeed once and fail nine times, but in this school, the only person who can ever force you to drop out is you.

Every moment in our lives is a chance to grow stronger and wiser. Back in high school, there was a period of time when I had issues with oversleeping and tardiness. At first I struggled; but I eventually realized that punctuality is a sign of respect for another person’s time. So by simply going to bed 30 minutes earlier every night, I was able to wake up on time and not be late for class… for about a week… (sudden positive) But then I figured out all I had to do was hop out of the car outside North Greenhills coz that’s where all the traffic is, run across Ortigas and make it to class on time. Just kidding. (duhhh) Of course I took the overpass. I can never forget that beautiful, hot pink sign: WALANG TAWIRAN NAKAMAMATAY.

To all my fellow Xaverians here today, I honor you because you continue to let your light shine in the school of life, transforming setbacks into opportunities, and being a man for others along the way. If you’ve shared your notes with a classmate who was out sick for several days of class, then you get an A+ in kindness. If you and your classmates have put together a special appreciation day for your teachers, then you get an A+ in gratitude. In exchange for your kindness and gratitude you do NOT get a tiny metallic disc to hang around your neck. You gain infinitely more, because you’ve stumbled upon this fundamental law: that everything you give away, you give to yourself. And when you inflict pain upon others, it’s you who suffers the most. Call it the golden rule, call it karma, call it… common sense. Whatever you call it, harness this truth and your life will be filled with joy and success.

Now I’m not talking about success as in wealth or recognition, well— at least I choose not to limit my definition of success to just those things. Ultimately, only you can decide what success means to you. And when you do arrive at a definition— which will change, and that’s okay— why not set for yourself a goal that’s big enough to be just beyond your reach? Because it’s only with big goals that we’re able to take equally big action. Then you become less interested in success itself, and more interested in the sheer exhilaration of the journey.

Before I go, let me say: in your education, in your relationships and in your life, I encourage you to embrace the discomfort. Easier said than done of course, I know. Sometimes you’ll post a super awesome picture of that perfectly angled, perfectly filtered cheeseburger you had that was totally #todiefor, and you only get 7 likes. Sometimes you get your school polo altered so that it’s tight fitting,
but when you try it on… (disappointed )sigh… it’s still loose around the arms. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned, and that’s completely fine. Many times, you will fail. But the gift that failure gives us is the liberating revelation you get knowing that you dove head first into your fears and made it out alive, stronger and wiser.

Friends, families, faculty thank you for your time and congratulations again. To God be the glory. Luceat Lux, let your light shine. Mabuhay Xavier School.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas. Whoo! Peace out!

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